BC Pires has been an informal friend of the TTFF since 2006, the mentor to the festival’s Youth Jury since 2015 and served as a full member of the festival’s programming committee this year.
Photos by Mark Lyndersay
My name is Mikayla Almandoz
and I am a volunteer with the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival which ends tomorrow, Tuesday 15 September.
I come from Palmiste, San Fernando. Born and bred a South girl. I’ve lived in the same house all my entire life and all my family is, like, two minutes away.
I’m the youngest of three siblings, an older twin, Rebecca, and an older brother, Michael. Rebecca and I are not alike in any way. She does football & sciences, I’ve always done arts, dance & theatre. My dad is Alex. My mom was born Rachael Weston.
I was baptised Anglican and went to Catholic school but my family are kind of Christmas churchgoers. And, as we got older, even that slowed down. I believe there is “something out there that can look out for me”. But I’m not sure what it might be.
Prayer is a comfort for the person who prays. My thing is, everything happens for a reason, take it one day at a time.
I don’t lose sleep over whether there’s an afterlife — although I did love Ricky Gervais’ series, Afterlife, on Netflix. It’s so smart! The one thing you can be sure about is this life. You’re here now. Take everything in the moment, enjoy what you can. I don’t follow any religious doctrine. Be kind; be happy; be brave; those are my commandments.
I graduated with a BA in acting this year after three years at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. Of course, I have to be a supporter of Liverpool. Football is everywhere around you in that city! Although I suppose I could have chosen Everton. I never actually went to a football match though.
It was no surprise I wanted to get into drama. I was always the little drama queen. I absolutely have the “look at me!” gene.
After form five at St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, I was 16 and, somehow, convinced my parents to let me go to an American performing arts boarding school. I’d started dancing at six and have been a performer since. I did international dance exams every year until I was, like, 16. I got to advanced intermediate level — or was it intermediate advanced?
Walnut Hill School for the Arts, outside Boston, was a transition. Culture shock. I was the only person from the Caribbean there. People didn’t know of Trinidad & Tobago. I had to keep explaining.
So many times in Boston, people would watch me and then, when they heard me talk, they were, like, “YOU are Trinidadian?”
I definitely broke some people’s
expectations. I was there for two years before going to England for three.
I saw the Trump election live in 2016, in my senior year. Arts school is very liberal, and, the day after he was elected, it felt like a ghost town. Everybody was silent, disappointed, confused as to what it meant for the country and the world. We have to hope it won’t happen again this November. He has that little hard core of people who don’t care but, hopefully, enough people have seen enough. And will just vote him out.
I did acting training for both stage and screen, film and theatre. I was in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. We were in rehearsal for our last senior show in Liverpool before covid hit and I had to come back home.
The first actor-hero who comes to mind is Viola Davis, from How to Get Away with Murder and Fences (with Denzel Washington). I’m just captivated by everything I’ve seen her do. Robin Williams is always a joy to watch. He has that amazing power to make you cry and laugh within a minute.
I hope to go back to England. I got some interest in a management agency representing me. I was happy in England. Even with Brexit looming.
Mainly because I haven’t been in the country for Carnival for the past five years, I’ve played mas only once. My hope was that 2021 was going to be MY Carnival… but then covid!
I LOVE everything about Carnival, from its history to fetes. I wrote my university dissertation on its performance aspect!
I LOVE SOCA! I think it’s the best music for any kind of mood you’re in. Happy? Sad? Soca! It just does everything. Kes is one of my favourites. Naila Blackman as well. I listened to English music at university — the Killers and so on — but I always came back to soca.
I volunteered to work for the film festival because I saw a few films from last year and really wanted to be part of it. And to break the monotony of lockdown. My parents say lockdown reminded them of the 1990 Coup. Since the end of July, I’ve been in the Jerningham Avenue office.
I’ve been mainly assisting the education co-ordinator, helping out with q+a’s, contacting directors, scheduling. I helped pack goodie bags for directors. I’ve helped organise merch, ordered T-shirts, followed up on emails, planned workshop events. I also worked with BC Pires on the admin side of the Youth Jury.
It’s been a really good opportunity to help people. Usually my day runs Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm, in the office. At crunch time, the two weeks before the festival and the festival itself, days get longer.
The best thing about volunteering for the festival was getting to understand the amount of hard work that goes into it. I knew it wasn’t an easy process but I didn’t know it was this hard. I’d never done much in the back-end or organisation of the film industry. It was great to get the understanding of so many different pieces of the puzzle.
Despite BC Pires doing his best to get me to say it, the worst part of the job was not working with BC Pires.
Actually, there has not been a worst part. It’s all been a learning process and all of it, the better or the worse, has been good.
As a people, we have so much potential, and I’m hoping for better, moving forward. Whether it’s the political aspect, economically, or just as a people. So much has come out recently, with the election, people’s ways of thinking and acting — but I have faith in us to move forward and be better.
To me, a Trini, is an energy that should not be ignored.
To me, Trinidad & Tobago is everything. It’s home, it’s family. It’s good and bad. It’s all of it.